Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Big Ups to Shankar

Monday Monday

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* The cushy administrative salaries and bonuses add up to an indictment of the Brodhead administration for allowing the burden of the fiscal crisis to fall unevenly: bonuses for the brass, a direct hit for cafeteria workers, groundskeepers, housekeepers, clerks and underpaid adjunct faculty who lost their jobs. Via literally every single person I know at Duke.

* Libertopia watch: The Lake County sheriff has stopped providing police protection for a northwestern Indiana town after it missed a deadline he set for it to pay the county $100,000. Via MetaFilter.

* How the climate bill went south. Via Shankar in the comments from a post from last week, where we’ve been talking about whether or not I’ve been fair to Obama. On the climate story, ThinkProgress highlights Lindsey Graham’s terror that Fox would find out what he was up to.

Hope for the Democrats this November? More false hope here.

* George Lucas’s Theory of the Novel.

* The ACLU vs. the future.

Stanley’s 2002 paper tries to do just that. In it, he carefully imagines what could happen when human reproductive cloning is perfected — “what enforcement action would be taken when, say, a sixth-grader is discovered to be an unauthorized clone of Jennifer Lopez?” Could genetic enhancement inspire a kind of neo-eugenicist society where social classes are determined by access to the kind of wealth one needs to take advantage of such technologies? If humans succeeded in splicing their own DNA with that of animals, where would the line of “personhood” be drawn? Citing a scenario out of the 1997 movie Gattaca, Stanley expresses concern that the growing ability to remove genetic defects prior to childbirth might lead to employers collecting hair or skin cells from prospective employees. (On this last point his concern was prescient: In 2008, Congress outlawed genetic discrimination nearly unanimously. In the House, Ron Paul was the only dissenting vote.)

Via Matt Yglesias.

* The Social Network vs. women. (UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Colbert asked Sorkin about this last Thursday on his show, and Sorkin didn’t respond very well at all.)

* John Scalzi vs. Ayn Rand. Via SEK.

* And the Obama/Emanuel hug has sent the wrong message to our enemies. Please, not in front of the Klingons!

Sunday Night Links

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* I’ve really been enjoying the Guardian‘s World Cup Daily podcast. I’m listening to them let England have it as we speak.

* Google, still fresh from its Buzz triumph, may release a doomed “Facebook killer” later this month.

* Steve Benen has a truly fantastic post about why you can’t negotiate with the GOP.

* Now that everyone is a valedictorian, I can only wax nostalgic about the great GPA wars of yore. Team Jeremy ’97! Team Shankar ’98!

* Sad news from West Virginia: Robert Byrd is reportedly seriously ill. FiveThirtyEight answers your macabre questions about West Virginia’s replacement rules.

* And I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missourah W as a vowel.

Super Monday Night Links

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* My good friend Shankar D has returned to the Internet with his beloved annual March Madness blog.

* Democrats win the Super Bowl!

* Debt forgiveness is coming to Haiti.

* Is the U.S. Senate more dysfunctional than 18th century Poland’s Sejm? Paul Krugman reports. (Via Steve Benen.) Meanwhile, Open Left argues that reliably beating the filibuster would require 72 Democrats but only 54 Republicans, due to disparate party loyalty.

* How Republicans will kill the filibuster.

* Read Ezra Klein.

As I’ve said before, it is very near to impossible to build out an ideological model explaining why Republicans who voted for the deficit-financed Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit would vote against the deficit-neutral health-care reform bill. But it’s very easy to build out a model explaining why Republicans would vote for a bill that would help them if it passed and against a bill that would hurt them if it failed. Same goes for Democrats. Good-faith disagreement is not the explanation that best fits the data.

This isn’t, importantly, an attack on either party. It’s good to have a competitive electoral system! But if we’re going to give the minority party a reason to want the majority party to fail at governing the country, we can’t also give them the power to make the majority party fail at governing the country. We need a legislative system that works alongside our political system, not one that pretends we have a different, more harmonious political system than we really do.

* While I’m wishing away the Senate, Neil Sinhababu is wishing away the 50 states.

* Terrorists who want to overthrow the United States government must now register with South Carolina’s Secretary of State and declare their intentions—or face a $25,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. Keep it in mind. Via Boing Boing.

* Chris Christie getting positive press in New Jersey for gutting state employee benefits.

* Democrats think the kill-Medicare GOP budget is a political winner for them. That would certainly be a novelty. I’m still amazed Republicans are really going to get away with killing a jobs bill during a period of cataclysmic unemployment. It’s 2010; why can’t the DNC circulate talking points? Can’t wait to spend months and months begging the GOP to do the right thing on health care when we all already know they won’t.

* Parents, please don’t waterboard your children.

* Classic Books That Could Be Turned Into Video Games. Some of these are great: Don Quixote Kong, A Hundred Years of Solitaire, Pacman and the Sea, Super Karamazov Brothers, Pride and Extreme Prejudice…

* And deeply bad news for Gerries: delicious soda totally causes pancreatic cancer. I drank a lifetime’s worth in ten years, and then a second lifetime’s worth in the next ten years, so I have to say I feel a little screwed on this.

More on Health Care and the Political Spectrum

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Starting off, I thought this insightful post from Matt Yglesias puts the central paradox in centrist/incrementalist approaches to health care reform very well:

The reason is that the way insurance companies make money is to segment the population based on risk. And the way centrist, moderate, or otherwise incrementalist approaches to reforming U.S. health care work is they attempt to regulate away insurance companies’ ability to do risk-segmentation effectively. But once you accept the premise that you don’t want insurance companies doing all this risk analysis, there’s basically nothing else for them to do. That’s just what an insurance company is.

Naturally I use that term “centrist” here quite advisedly, taking Shankar D’s point from the comments that it can sometimes obscure more than it reveals. But here again I think the term is meaningful and useful: “centrism” designates an approach to health care reform that leaves the current dominant coverage mechanism (for-profit insurance companies) basically intact and unchanged, in contrast to liberal or progressive approaches like (in order of radicality) co-operatives, public options, and single-payer, which are transformative in nature.

Ezra Klein takes up a more Shankarian style of analysis when he writes of the progressive blogosophere inappropriately making a fetish of the public option:

It might have been a necessary thing from an activism point of view, but convincing liberals that this bill was worthless in the absence of the public option was a terrible decision, wrong on the merits and unfair to the base. The achievement of this bill is $900 billion to help people purchase health-care coverage, a new market that begins to equalize the conditions of the unemployed and the employed, and a regulatory structure in which this country can build, for the first time, a universal health-care system. Thousands and thousands of lives will be saved by this bill. Bankruptcies will be averted. Rescission letters won’t be sent. Parents won’t have to fret because they can’t take their child, or themselves, to the emergency room. This bill will, without doubt, do more good than any single piece of legislation passed during my (admittedly brief) lifetime. If it passes, the party that fought for it for decades deserves to feel a sense of accomplishment.

Fair enough.

But this is also the same Ezra Klein who wrote, only a few days ago, that “This bill, when it’s finished, is not going to be very good. But it’s going to be a lot better than what we have, and almost more importantly, a lot easier to improve in the future.” And it is this argument—the expansionist argument—that I think remains the clearest justification for full-throated progressive support of this significantly imperfect bill. Obamacare is a base hit, not a home run. Recognizing it as such isn’t, and shouldn’t be confused with, rejecting it altogether.

Get With It, Asians

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Texas State Rep. Betty Brown has some good advice for our friends of the Asian persuasion. Yglesias points out that South Asians are the real villains here—your Duraiswamies, your Ayyagaries, your Balasubramanians…

Written by gerrycanavan

April 9, 2009 at 8:51 pm

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Missed a Day

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Whoops, missed a day somehow. (Even grad students get busy sometimes.) Here’s a few links I’ve been saving; scroll all the way to the bottom for your daily dose of Watchmen panic.

* One of our most beloved blog denizens has started up a March Madness blog. Add it to your feeds immediately.

* Executing someone on their birthday may seem hilarious, but actually it’s sort of cold. (via Srinivas)

* Same goes for trading your minor-league pitcher for ten bats. Via MeFi.

* All about experimental philosophy.

* The Daily Show’s evisceration of CNBC was amazing last night. Also, incredibly well-deserved.

* Forget man-on-dog: will gay marriage start us down the slippery slope to human/robot marriages? It could happen right here in North Carolina. Only Steve Benen sees where this really leads: man/dog/robot/robot-dog polygamy.

* Two games: Linear RPG and Exploit, the second from amateur-game-creator of the moment, Gregory Weir, (The Majesty of Colors, Bars of Black and White).

* “You have to understand,” he told me, “Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund.” Vanity Fair has a huge feature on the Icelandic financial collapse that really makes for fascinating reading. More discussion at MetaFilter. (via my dad)

Global financial ambition turned out to have a downside. When their three brand-new global-size banks collapsed, last October, Iceland’s 300,000 citizens found that they bore some kind of responsibility for $100 billion of banking losses—which works out to roughly $330,000 for every Icelandic man, woman, and child. On top of that they had tens of billions of dollars in personal losses from their own bizarre private foreign-currency speculations, and even more from the 85 percent collapse in the Icelandic stock market. The exact dollar amount of Iceland’s financial hole was essentially unknowable, as it depended on the value of the generally stable Icelandic krona, which had also crashed and was removed from the market by the Icelandic government. But it was a lot.

Iceland instantly became the only nation on earth that Americans could point to and say, “Well, at least we didn’t do that.” In the end, Icelanders amassed debts amounting to 850 percent of their G.D.P. (The debt-drowned United States has reached just 350 percent.) As absurdly big and important as Wall Street became in the U.S. economy, it never grew so large that the rest of the population could not, in a pinch, bail it out. Any one of the three Icelandic banks suffered losses too large for the nation to bear; taken together they were so ridiculously out of proportion that, within weeks of the collapse, a third of the population told pollsters that they were considering emigration.

* When will voters start blaming Obama for the economy? Nate Silver has the numbers suggesting that will start in 18 or so months, though I bet that timeline could halve or worse that as people grow frustrated with prolonged economic hardship.

* What Obama could learn from Watchmen: Matt Yglesias reports on Ronald Reagan’s own Ozymandian scheme for global unity.

* And Jacob sends along your hope-crushing Watchmen reviews for the day.

J. Hoberman in Village Voice: The philosopher Iain Thomson (who valiantly brought Heidegger’s Being and Time to bear on his reading of Watchmen) maintained that Moore not only deconstructed the idea of comic book super-heroism but pulverized the very notion of the hero—and the hero-worship that comics traditionally sell. For all its superficial fidelity, Snyder’s movie stands Moore’s novel on its head, trying to reconstruct a conventional blockbuster out of those empty capes and scattered shards.

David Edelstein, New York Magazine: …this kind of reverence kills what it seeks to preserve. The movie is embalmed.

Meanwhile, Steve Benen and Adam Serwer take a stand against Anthony Lane on behalf of geeks everywhere.

Fox News

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Fox News (yes, they still exist) is actually telling people that Barack Obama isn’t president because John Roberts botched the oath of office. Via Ta-Nehisi Coates, though it must be noted that Shankar predicted this would happen during the inauguration itself.

UPDATE: TPM has the video, which makes it clear that this is a case of what the Honorable Al Franken (Sen-MN) used to call “kidding on the square.” Via C&L.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 21, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Who Is Eric Holder?

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Who is Eric Holder? Likely, he’s your next attorney general.

A New York City native who graduated from Columbia University and Columbia Law School, Holder spent years as a federal prosecutor—a job in which he earned a reputation as tough and aggressive foe of public corruption. After serving in the public integrity section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and later a District of Columbia Superior Court judge, Holder was named by President Clinton as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. He became deputy attorney general in 1997 under Janet Reno and was viewed as a centrist on most law enforcement issues, though he has sharply criticized the secrecy and the expansive views of executive power advanced by the Bush Justice Department.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 18, 2008 at 11:20 pm

We Got Our Country Back

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Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen links to the latest of the Howard Dean retrospectives.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean said at the National Press Club that President-elect Barack Obama “was right in 2004, when he said there are no red states and no blue states; there are only American states, and we all share the same values.”

“You cannot be a national party if you are willing to write off entire parts of our country,” Dean stated. “Based on that pretty straightforward idea, we changed the way our party ran campaigns and reached out to voters.”

In a memo, the DNC touted Dean’s strategy, which was often maligned at its inception.

Like a lot of people my age, Dean was both the first candidate I ever gave money to ($50) and the first Democrat I ever really believed in. While I see more clearly now than then that he probably couldn’t have beat Bush in ’04—though I remember some pretty good arguments with Shankar on this point—in terms of both organizational strategy and campaign aesthetics he helped pave the way for the Obama movement. And while the fifty-state stategy he instituted as chairman of the DNC was certainly lucky in our choice of nominee—though we likely still would have won with Hillary, it would have been on a much more traditional playing field—it’s fundamentally the right strategy, the winning strategy, as the increasingly regional Republicans are about to learn the hard way.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 6, 2008 at 6:18 pm

The Triumph of Fake Virginia

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Larry Sabato writes the McCain campaign appears to have had a “death wish” in Virginia.

Of the two shifts, by far the most significant is VIRGINIA, which we are moving from pure toss-up to LEANS OBAMA. We have been very cautious about the Old Dominion, in part because it’s been our home for the better part of six decades. More than most, we know how tough this state can be for a Democratic presidential candidate. But while we continue to disbelieve the national polls showing Obama winning Virginia by 10 percentage points, we now believe that Obama has built a small edge of two or three points in the state. The reasons are clear: Bush, the disastrous economy, the demographic growth of Northern Virginia and its strong Democratic tilt, the momentum built up by recent Democratic victories (Mark Warner in 2001 and soon 2008, Tim Kaine in 2005, and Jim Webb in 2006), and the remarkable voter registration and voter contact efforts of a literal army of Obama staffers and volunteers in the state for a full year.

But it is more than that. The McCain campaign and the state GOP appear to have had a death wish. McCain’s staff refused to believe Virginia was truly competitive for too long, and the McCain-Palin visits were few. McCain’s brother called Northern Virginians “Commies” and one of McCain’s most prominent spokespersons said they were not the “real Virginia.” Generally, it is difficult to win the votes of people you are insulting.

The Virginia Republican party is also completely outclassed by the state’s Democrats in money and organization. The GOP is being run by a very young, fire-breathing chairman who publicly drew an absurd link between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden–drawing angry rebukes from the top echelon of the McCain campaign as well as virtually all the senior Republican elected officials in the state. Republicans in Virginia have simply not adapted to the new moderate reality of this Mid-Atlantic state, the twelfth largest in the nation. They insist on running too far to the right, as though this were the Virginia of the Old South. It’s not selling anymore.

Sabato’s crystal ball also moves North Dakota to “toss-up” this week.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Obama’s Other Firewall

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Pollster.com moves Virginia to Strong Obama.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 20, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Politics Monday

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Politics Monday.

* A funny thing happened to Michele Bachmann: after her neo-McCarthyite rant on Hardball, her opponent raised almost $400K overnight, with her primary opponent re-entering the race as a write-in candidate in protest. Bachmann’s now desperately trying to backpeddle.

* Republican arrested for voter-fraud registration. ACORN still exonerated.

* West Virginia electronic voting machines don’t work, either: purely by accident, they keep switching votes to McCain.

* Indiana gave us Shankar D and it currently feeds my good friends Brent and Lisa. But will it give us President Obama?

* Memo to the McCain campaign: the hate isn’t working and your Hail Marys bombed. Try something else.

* Or, you know, don’t: John McCain doesn’t really seem to mind losing. A lot of “moderate” conservatives, too, seem okay with it, most of them rightly blaming Sarah Palin. I tell you this, I sure hope the far right manages to make her the nominee in 2012.

* It turns out McCain’s also made himself far less available to the press than even Palin, having not taken any questions since September.

* Early voting starts in Florida today, where the right-leaning RCP average puts the race at +3.2 Obama, who will spend the next three days there campaigning with Hillary Clinton.

* More early voting facts and figures at The Caucus and (especially) elections.gmu.edu. TPM reports that the numbers so far favor Obama.

* Encouraging signs: McCain has $47 million left to spend. Obama has much, much more.

* In the New York Times, Dr. Lawrence Altman has concerns about the candidates’ health, McCain’s in particular.

* Al Gore will host an election night webcast for the Obama campaign as part of its “Building the New Energy Economy” theme.

* And Obama is your marketer of the year. Seems about right.

Indiana, Proud Birthplace of Shankar D

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A Selzer poll of Indiana, proud birthplace of Kurt Vonnegut, Orville Redenbacher, and our own Shankar D, puts Obama three points ahead in the state. I wouldn’t give it any credibility at all if it were anyone but Ann Selzer, who is widely considered the gold standard of polling in the Midwest. (You might remember Selzer & Co. from the Des Moines Register poll that was the first to predict Obama’s big win in Iowa.)

More than anything else this reflects the change in momentum I’ve been talking about all week, arising from five or so factors:

* the evaporation of the convention bounce in general and the Palin bounce in particular;
* the continued stunning collapse of the banking system;
* the widening perception that McCain has been running an unusually dishonest, throw-shit-at-the-wall campaign;
* self-inflicted wounds from the McCain camp, most importantly the “fundamentals” line;
* and Obama (finally) taking a tougher line.

Marc Ambinder has a post up talking about the different approaches McCain and Obama take to a state like Indiana. McCain is right that if Obama wins Indiana, he probaby already won the election somewhere else. But by the same token McCain is playing on such a limited field that he can’t allow Indiana to go uncontested, which if nothing else will be a nice drain on his resources and time. As has been said here time and time again, on a state-by-state level McCain is pretty clearly on defense, which bodes well; an unexpectedly successful GOTV operation anywhere in NV, CO, VA, IN, OH, FL, or even NC could be enough to put Obama over the top.

With the map above, even an unexpectedly strong showing in Montana (vote Ron Paul) would do the job. And don’t think Obama’s strategy people aren’t on this; they’ve even put resources in Omaha, Nebraska, to try to win the city’s lone electoral vote.

In terms of how-we’ll-actually-win, the eight-point lead in New Mexico from Survey USA is much more promising. I think McCain will probably retain Indiana, when it comes down to it, unless it’s the sort of blowout that’s already cost him Ohio; putting New Mexico in the Obama column is a strong sign for us even if we’re trying to win by just one EV.

Written by gerrycanavan

September 18, 2008 at 12:40 pm

‘This Is What A Culture War Looks Like’

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Shankar D: “This Is What A Culture War Looks Like.”

After Wednesday night’s RNC proceedings, the contrast between Senator Obama’s calls to unity and the GOP’s calls to cultural warfare couldn’t be clearer.

Rudy! Rudy!

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Big ups to Shankar: Rudy’s speaking tonight. I’m breaking the embargo on this excerpt:

…but I know another person who was mayor on 9/11, and that’s Sarah Palin. [applause]

Written by gerrycanavan

September 3, 2008 at 4:28 pm